Health watchdog urges local NHS bosses to reconsider patient transport cuts

Photo: Graham Richardson.

A health watchdog has urged NHS bosses to reconsider some cost-cutting changes to patient transport services following a public outcry.

North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee has resolved to call on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to consider the impact of rurality, access to public transport and distances to clinics, when deciding if patients should qualify for transport.

The watchdog has called on both the Vale of York CCG and Scarborough and Ryedale CCG to consider amending their criteria so that patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy, renal and other oncology are automatically entitled to patient transport services and do not need an assessment.

The move follows CCGs in the county implementing “national eligibility criteria” over which patients should receive free transport to medical appointments.

The CCGs, which are all facing financial pressures, said the steady increase in numbers of patients who had received the service in recent years had been “to the detriment of the quality of service received by patients who do meet the national eligibility criteria”.

However, the withdrawal of services from some patients over the autumn was condemned, with councillors saying vulnerable people in rural areas desperately needed the service.

While a meeting of the watchdog in December heard the CCGs insist they had simply implemented criteria that should have been in place previously, councillors highlighted the national guidance on the patient transport service was that the commissioners needed to reflect the locality for which they are developing the eligibility criteria.

Following a motion by Richmondshire councillors John Blackie and Stuart Parsons calling on the CCGs to provide patient transport which reflected the rural nature of the county, the scrutiny committee has drawn up a list of seven resolutions to present to NHS bosses.

The watchdog has called on CCGs to provide evidence about the number of patients who have been allowed transport on appeal after falling foul of the criteria and the number of patients failing to turn up for medical appointments after being refused transport.

After finding people in need to transport often over-stated their mobility and independence, the committee has also asked CCGs and ambulance service to consider amending the assessment criteria to include the impact of rurality, the level of access to public transport and distances that have to be travelled.

Other recommendations to the CCGs include simplifying the appeals process for patients who are refused transport.

1 Comment

  1. I have to have some minor Oral surgery soon and I’ve been told that I will not be able to drive for 24 hours afterwards. Since I don’t have any family or friends to relie on for transport I’ve got to contemplate either a Taxi or else community Transport, that alone cost me £35 last year from Ravensworth to Northallerton so, I’m going to be looking at a £70 bill because any driver won’t be able to wait a few hours for me to recover and released following my operation.
    If you live in a town all transports practically free but if you live in the country no one gives a dam!

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